Australia has taken an interesting step forward: they’re going to allow instruction in humanism in their schools, apparently in place of traditional religion classes.
Victorian state primary school students will soon have an alternative — religious education lessons taught by people who do not believe in God and say there is “no evidence of any supernatural power”.
The Humanist Society of Victoria has developed a curriculum, which the State Government accreditation body says it intends to approve, to deliver 30-minute lessons each week of “humanist applied ethics” to primary pupils.
Accredited volunteers will be able to teach their philosophy in the class time designated for religious instruction. As with lessons delivered by faith groups, parents will be able to request that their children do not participate.
Now the fun part. The religious are complaining, of course. The fundies are saying this opens the door to all kinds of wacko religions to get equal time in the schools.
Fundamentalist Christian group the Salt Shakers panned the idea of humanists being given religious education class time.
Research director Jenny Stokes said: “If you go there, where do you stop? What about witchcraft or Satanism?
“If you accredit humanism, then those things would have an equal claim to be taught in schools.”
To me, witchcraft and satanism are no crazier than Christianity, so I don’t see the point of the argument. What’s even funnier, though, is that the groups with a vested interest in supporting the mainstream religions have a completely different argument.
But the body that accredits Victoria’s 3500 Christian religious instruction volunteers, Access Ministries, says humanism is not a religion and so should not be taught in religious education time.
Access Ministries now teaches in about two-thirds of state primary schools. Other accredited instructors teach Judaism, Buddhism and Baha’i.
The Humanist Society does not consider itself to be a religious organisation and believes ethics have “no necessary connection with religion”. Humanists believe people are responsible for their own destiny and reject the notion of a supernatural force or God.
So they can’t let a secular ethics taught because it’s a religion, and we can’t let it be taught because it is not a religion. I say let those two groups fight it out while the secular humanists just do their good ol’ rational thing.